Change is happening.

Sometimes it is easy to get lost in the negativity of -isms and -phobias existing in the world: racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, etc. However, the more I pay attention to the news, read [your] blogs, and listen to popular music, the more I realize that the world is changing, however slowly. This change is something that needs to be addressed, not only by ourselves, but in our classrooms.

Food for thought:

While at the JoLLE conference last weekend, Dr. Mollie Blackburn discussed how coming out is a form of activism. She is completely right, and we see the courage it takes in this video. One would think it would be easy for someone so famous, beautiful, and talented like Ellen Page to come out, but there is difficulty in her words — pain, even.

Shortly before Page came out at the Human Rights Campaign, Michael Sam shocked the world, aiming to be the first openly gay man playing for the NFL. While there has been a lot of push back against his announcement, it has been received better than expected (at least, in my opinion). Both of these inspirational examples, and their reception, seems to show that America is ready to accept the LGBTQ community — at least, more ready than it has ever been. That gives me hope, even though we still have a long way to go.

Wife of teacher to Obama: ‘please stop this runaway reform now’

Wife of teacher to Obama: ‘please stop this runaway reform now’

In this Washington Post open letter to President Obama, the wife of a Georgia public schoolteacher describes the state of emergency students and teachers are currently facing. It is beautifully composed and deserves a read.

An update on Ukraine

In case you have not been following the news in Ukraine like I have, it has not gotten better. In fact, on January 22, which was supposed to be Ukraine’s unity day, things only got worse.

Here is a video that gives you a sense of Ukraine’s current emotional state (obligatory cautionary note: language):

The facts:

  • The weather in Kiev for the next week reaches a high of 15° F (-9° C) and a low of -12° F (-25° C).
  • Thousands of protestors flood the streets of Kiev daily, despite the violent conditions (both from riot police and the weather itself).
  • Five people have died directly or indirectly related to the protests — hundreds have been injured.
  • Injured protestors have been seen going into hospitals for treatment, then gone missing soon after. Therefore, underground medical tents/rooms have been developed to treat the ill or injured protestors.
  • It is now a felony to gather and protest in the streets. People who are arrested will spend 15 years in prison for this “felony.”

Here is a good article that discusses more of these facts in detail.

The mistreatment of Ukrainian rioters does not end there. Here is another video discussing some specific examples of the turmoil in Kiev:

I am blown away at the bravery of the protestors. Up until this point, when they were pushed against the wall with a felony charge, they have been wholly nonviolent; however, things are getting crucial. If you would like to help, visit http://www.uuarc.org. Or, you can read this letter from Yuri Andrukhovych: Appeal to European Readers.

 

EDIT: A colleague shared a wonderful link with me. This is a blog post titled “On ‘Extremism.'” There are two versions — scroll down for English.

Ukrainian Rioters’ Fight for Social Justice

Big things are happening in Ukraine right now — things that mirror the stories we read in our favorite dystopian novels. It is easy to read books like 1984 or The Hunger Games and think that kind of oppression could never take place, but when I opened The New York Times this morning, my ignorance was stripped away (again), as I am reminded that oppressive governments exist, even today. Here are a few news reels discussing the riots in Ukraine:

General Overview:

Recent Update:

As I watch updates streaming from multiple news stations, I am reminded of what heroism looks like. It is not always jumping out of a building to save a child or throwing oneself in front of a bullet. Sometimes it is standing up for justice, even when the odds are not in your favor. These riots started November 22, the same day the second installment of The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, premiered in theatres. Though a mere coincidence, I cannot help but find connections between the two events.

Here are two images from Catching Fire (possible spoilers ahead, but nothing you wouldn’t get from a movie trailer):

In both of these images (taken from the film, Catching Fire), one can see the tension rising in the districts. These people, oppressed by a corrupt government, found hope in Katniss Everdeen’s bravery. This story, though, is fiction — yet, these images look very similar to what is happening in Ukraine:

Though a stretch, it is becoming clear — at least, to me — that the nightmares found in dystopian literature are not always fictional. However, people are strong when they want to be, and these rioters demonstrate their strength in fighting for social justice, giving us inspiration to fight against oppression in our own towns.

For more information on these riots:

Ukrainians call for Yanukovych to resign in protests sparked by EU u-turn

Ukrainians back in street to support EU accord

Video of police brutality in Kiev fuels rage

Thousands demand resignation of Ukraine leader

When life throws you lemons, show the nation how you fight back

One of my high school students has made national news.

Watch T. J.’s interview here, titled “Deaf high school football player excels on the field.”

If I had to describe T. J. in one word, it would be “cool.” He has faced so many obstacles in his life, but he always keeps his cool. If he hits one road block, he turns around and keeps driving until he finds his way. I have complete faith in him that he will succeed in whatever endeavor he encounters because his heart is strong and his drive unending.

T. J. inspires me because he never stops. So many times, I — like many others — feel like the world is against me in my fight for social justice. Then I encounter people whose stories are so inspirational, that I am called back into action. T. J.’s story does just that. If he can overcome countless obstacles, so can I — and so can you.

Here are other stories on T. J.:

Athens Banner-Herald

Good Stuff Happened Today

News One

Mark Zuckerberg Hosts ‘Hackathon’ for Undocumented Immigrants

It is easy to think of racism and the dehumanization of minority people(s) as a thing of the past. However, with more and more laws being passed that directly hurt children — namely, those who are undocumented and/or raised by undocumented parents, obviously prejudice is still prevalent in our society.

I love hearing about people in positions of power helping those with little to no power. So, when I read this blurb, I had to repost it. There is something we can all do to help others. It’s our turn!

Resources:

U.S.

Correction appended

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted a marathon programming session Wednesday with young undocumented immigrants, in his latest effort to prod Congress into pass immigration reform.

Zuckerberg brought 20 young immigrants, who came to the U.S. illegally, to Silicon Valley for a “DREAMer Hackathon” at the headquarters of LinkedIn. With help from other technology heavyweights like LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston, the young coders planned to build new technology platforms during a 24-hour coding session, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Zuckerberg’s lobbying group, Fwd.us, which advocates for immigration reform, pledged to get the young coders’ projects up running. The group wants to change U.S. immigration policy to grant more visas for workers with skills in science, math and technology.

[Los Angeles Times]

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated where the Hackathon took place. It was at LinkedIn’s headquarters, not Facebook’s headquarters.

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